Traffic fatalities on Minnesota roads were at their lowest number since 1943 and the second lowest since 1926, according to preliminary numbers released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety.
The report tallied 348 traffic deaths in 2017; the last reported death was Dec. 28. That compares with 392 in 2016 and 411 in 2015.
The Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) said the 2017 numbers may change.
This year got off to a good start: As of Wednesday, there had been no reported traffic deaths on state roads.
“Minnesotans are starting 2018 out on the right foot by making a commitment to safe driving,” the OTS said.
The agency attributed the declining number of deaths to drivers “making the right choices behind the wheel by: driving sober; wearing their seat belt; paying attention; and driving the speed limit.”
The report said the fatalities included 235 motor vehicle occupants; 52 motorcyclists (compared with 53 in 2016); 38 pedestrians (compared with 60 last year); six bicyclists (compared with seven in 2016); and 17 people in other vehicles.
Alcohol-related crashes contributed to 98 deaths. Sixteen were distraction-related, 82 were speed-related and 80 involved motorists who were not wearing seat belts.
Males accounted for 72 percent of the deaths, with 252; females for 28 percent, or 96.
The largest number of people who were killed — 61 — were between the ages of 21 and 30. Those 71 and older accounted for 58; ages 31-40, 51; 41-50, 50; 51-60, 49; 61-70, 42, and 11-20, 32. Five people age 10 and under were killed.
The agency also said DWI arrests were up in 2017, from 23,392 in 2016 to 25,190 last year.
The OTS said the 2017 numbers were the lowest since 1943 when 274 people were killed on state roads and the second lowest since 1926, when 326 people were killed.
The agency called it “a step in the right direction.”